Horizon Zero Dawn has totally captured my attention — and I can't stop playing it

horizon zero dawn
(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Welcome! This column is part of a regular series in which we share what members of the Tom's Guide staff are playing and enjoying right now, with an eye towards helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our last entry, where we talk about why you should check out God of War (2018).

As I neared the end of Breath of the Wild — and continued to take a break from Elden Ring — I looked through my library to see which game I wanted to play next. My eyes landed on Horizon Zero Dawn, a game I'd played on PS4 several years ago. I knew that the sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, had just come out, and I remembered that I liked Zero Dawn quite a bit.

So, I installed Zero Dawn and started playing. Forty hours later, I just finished the base game (minus some of the side activities), and now have the Frozen Wilds expansion waiting for me. Let me tell you, I really like this game. It's got interesting world-building, a relatable protagonist, a beautiful series of landscapes to explore and plenty of mysteries to uncover.

Aloy (played by the talented Ashly Burch) is a sympathetic heroine, and I find her utterly fascinating. The other cast of characters intrigue me to varying degrees, too, especially Sylens (played by the equally talented Lance Reddick). But what really drew me to Zero Dawn initially was the robot enemies. The fact that the story starts off in a post-apocalyptic version of my hometown also helped endear the game to me.

Taking on robot dinosaurs

Horizon Zero Dawn takes place hundreds of years after an apocalypse. Mankind caused its own destruction by creating killer robots that eventually turned on their masters. Humans made a last-ditch effort to foster life following the disaster. 

horizon zero dawn

(Image credit: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe)

The game starts off with Aloy, a motherless child of the Nora tribe. She's raised as an outcast by an outcast named Rost, her father figure. She learns to become a huntress to compete in the Nora's Proving ritual, where adolescents can become members of the tribe's warriors. The winner gets a boon of their choice from the Matriarchs.

However, a horrific slaughter occurs on the mountain peak at the Proving's end, sending Aloy on a quest for knowledge and revenge. But deadly machines, ranging from herd-animal types to monstrous Thunderjaws and Stormbirds, prowl the world. You'll have to fight countless robots, stripping them for parts to earn new gear or complete quests.

horizon zero dawn press assets: image of aloy hunting a watcher in the forest

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

The idea of robot dinosaurs (and other creatures, such as crocodiles) drew me to Horizon Zero Dawn years before Sony ported the game to PC. But the game also earned a place in my heart because it starts off in the Southern Colorado area. You can even visit the ruins of Colorado Springs, my hometown. Eventually, you'll travel up to Denver and to Mile High Stadium.

Aloy proves herself to be an upstanding, strong and fiercely intelligent protagonist. She's laser-focused on her mission — canonically, anyway. You, the player, can get distracted with side quests. Aloy, however, stops at nothing to save the world from certain doom. I like her tenacity.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a great PC game

Horizon Zero Dawn launched for the PS4 in 2017, and I picked it up shortly thereafter. Due to some life circumstances going on at the time, I didn't have much recollection of the game prior to its PC port, so I bought it again. (Twice, by accident: once on GOG and once on Steam.)

horizon zero dawn press assets: image of aloy fighting a thunderjaw

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

I've had no trouble with Horizon Zero Dawn on PC. (When it comes to PC ports, this is far from guaranteed.) My 2080 Ti handles everything at max settings, although I did turn on DLSS. It's a gorgeous game, especially considering that it's five years old. The world in Horizon has vastly changed from ours, as you'd expect to be the case centuries after an apocalypse. 

While Horizon Zero Dawn falls prey to many open-world tropes, such as tedious collectibles, waypoints that hold your hand and that sense of overwhelming scope, I still enjoy it. It's a PC game worth picking up, especially since it ought to run well on many systems.

I can't wait for Horizon Forbidden West on PC

horizon zero dawn press assets: image of aloy holding her bow at sunset

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

That leaves me looking to the future. I'll have the whole game completed soon, which will leave a post-apocalyptic hole in my heart. My eye turns toward Horizon Forbidden West, and to Sony's alleged interest in doing more PC ports. I have hope that Forbidden West will come to my preferred platform, since I no longer have a PlayStation console

I just want to experience Aloy's next adventure and to see more of this world that developer Guerrilla Games has crafted. I've worked to keep myself spoiler-free for Forbidden West, only looking at the briefest of synopses. 

Horizon Zero Dawn has been a blast, and I'm excited to wrap up the side activities and head into the Frozen Wilds. At least I'll get to spend a little more time with Aloy before I put aside her debut adventure.

Could Horizon Zero Dawn be the next big PS5 remake?

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.